*TOKYO: A Japanese exchange has lost 58 billion yen ($530 million) in cryptocurrency because of hacking, according to Japanese media reports.*
The hack and the loss of the currency is one of the biggest losses of assets since the launch of Bitcoin in 2009.
The Coincheck exchange said on its website Friday that it had halted sales and withdrawals of the currency, which is called NEM. It later added that it had restricted dealings in most other cryptocurrencies too.
At a Friday night news conference, Coincheck President Koichiro Wada bowed and apologized. He said the company may seek financial assistance, according to Kyodo News service.
Coincheck, which calls itself the leading Bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange in Asia, said it detected the unauthorized access to its system about 3 a.m. Friday.
The reported loss tops the 48 billion yen that Mt. Gox, a Japan-based Bitcoin exchange, lost in 2014.
The Japanese exchange said it did not appear that hackers had stolen other digital currencies.
Japan’s Financial Services Agency is looking into the situation.
Cryptocurrency NEM, which intends to help businesses handle data digitally, briefly fell more than 20 percent Friday before recovering totrade about 10 percent lower.
Co-founder Yusuke Otsuka said the company didn’t know how the 500 million tokens went missing, and the firm is working to ensure the safety of all client assets.
“We know where the funds were sent,” Otsuka said during a late-night press conference at the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Experts sat down at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week to discuss bitcoin.
General partner and co-founder of Index ventures, Mr Neil Rimmer said: “Bitcoin is completely trustworthy with no central authority. Some people who invest in it do not trust their government.”
Similar to bitcoin, NEM is a cryptocurrency built on top of blockchain but it uses a more environmentally friendly method to confirm transactions.